NORWICH, Conn. (WTNH) — Juneteenth became a federal holiday last summer — the first since Martin Luther King Jr. Day was created in 1983. Connecticut will recognize Juneteenth as a state holiday for the first time on June 19, 2023.

Ben Haith was recognized for creating the Juneteenth flag raised in honor of the holiday during Norwich’s Juneteenth celebration on Friday.

“When I found out how well the flag was received by people in different parts of the country, I was overwhelmed,” Haith said.

Haith, who now lives in Norwich, created the Juneteenth flag in 2000 while an activist in Boston. It has now become the national symbol for this holiday.

The star at the center of the flag represents the star of Texas, where the final slaves in Galveston were told on June 19, 1865, that they were free. That was two and a half years after Abraham Lincoln declared their freedom. That star is surrounded by a nova, a bursting star.

“American people who were enslaved are now new people, a new star rising up over the horizon, the red, white, and blue United States colors,” Haith said.

The city of Norwich has celebrated Juneteenth for 33 years and educating the community through street art for 40 years.

“James Lindsey Smith escaped slavery in 1838,” said Rev. Adam Bowles, lead pastor at Castle Church said. “Sarah Harris Fayerweather was one of the first Black students at the Prudence Crandall Museum.”

The newest mural on Broadway will be officially unveiled Saturday, not far from where the Juneteenth flag was raised.

“Hopefully, this flag will be a symbol that we can do more,” Haith said. “For not only the African American people but all people.”